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Was Andrew Cuomo’s NY Fracking “Sacrifice Zone” Plan Hatched by NRDC?

Steve Horn
Desmogblog / News Analysis
Published: Friday 15 June 2012
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology.
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Has New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just made the southern tier of the state a "sacrifice zone," as alleged by award-winning author and "fracktivist," Sandra Steingraber? Was it a plot hatched by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)?

The signs pointing to both possibilities are troublesome, to say the least.

The New York Times reported yesterday, via an unidentified insider at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), that Cuomo intends to "limit [shale gas] drilling to the deepest areas of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, at least for the next several years, in an effort to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination."

The Times article describes Cuomo's apparent plan:  

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology.

These counties, it turns out, are not only "struggling," as The Times describes them, but in destitute levels of poverty. Two of the counties up for grabs for fracking include Steuben and Chemung, which, according to New York Department of Labor statistics, have unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent, among the highest in the state.

Support for dangerous industrial development is certainly much easier to garner during times of economic desperation. That much has been made clear throughout history in the United States, particularly in the arena of mountaintop removal for coal extraction in Appalachia. In other words, it's far easier to sell a rotten bill of goods (or in this case, contaminated water and air) to those mired in poverty. Is New York setting up to repeat this tragic cycle?

Plan Hatched by the NRDC?

Tom Wilber, author of the recently published book Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale and author of the blog Shale Gas Review, picked up on the fact that a "sacrifice zone"-type plan was originally hatched by the NRDC. He explained that this plan was described by the NRDC as one that could limit fracking in New York state to “geographically limited areas":

As part of that review, the NRDC memo asked regulators to consider a three-year demonstration project in several “geographically limited areas.” Depending on the outcome, the state could then decide whether to “advance further a broader HVHF (High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing) program.” The memo was signed by NRDC senior attorneys Eric Goldstein and Kate Sinding, and consultant Craig Michaels.

[The Times] story did not specifically link Cuomo’s approach to the NRDC proposal, although Cuomo’s plan squares with the NRDC recommendations, and activists are disappointed with the NRDC for putting it on the table to begin with. Robert Kennedy Jr. serves as a senior attorney for the NRDC and sits on a panel that advices [sic] the DEC on it’s [sic] approach to shale gas.

NRDC has responded on Wilber's blog, claiming that its proposal wasn't intended as a "sacrifice zone"-type plan. NRDC attorney Kate Sinding told Wilber:   

“We were clear that we were neither specifically endorsing any of these alternatives nor were we presupposing that any level of development should be approved – simply that the state cannot fully evaluate fracking here without an in-depth analysis of any and all scenarios that could take place here.” Sinding added: “We regret that these comments have created concern and confusion. We stand with our partners across New York State in calling for a continued moratorium on new fracking until the environmental and health risks are fully and properly considered.”[Read NRDC's full statement at Wilber's blog in the comments section.]

It's worth noting, however, that NRDC's memo to NYDEC included the following language prior to the controversial "geographically limited areas" section [see pg 6 of the PDF]

"In the remainder of this section, we set forth five reasonable alternatives that can and should be fully evaluated as part of the state's SEQRA analysis."  [emphasis added]

And some activists aren't buying NRDC's stance. Sandra Steingraber, the outspoken author of the book Raising Elijah: Protecting Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis [see DeSmog's interview with Steingraber about the book] and founder of the activist organization New Yorkers Against Frackingstated of the NRDC-like Cuomo plan,

Instead of defending these communities, which is NRDC's self-appointed charge, the organization provided to the DEC in great detail a plan that sounds a lot like the very plan that is today being floated by the Cuomo administration: partitioning the state into frack and no frack zones in a way that will, if implemented, place the Southern Tier on the far side of the shale gas curtain. 

Her organization has launched a petition in response to the "sacrifice zone" partition plan and rallies around the state are planned as well. 

The prospect of fracking in New York has many other groups worried about the impacts that would likely come with unconventional energy development.“Within five years, you’ll start to see these chemicals show up in the water system,” said Ramsay Adams, Executive Director of Catskill Mountain keeper.

Time will tell how the Cuomo administration actually proceeds, but the early indications are painting a dark picture of what may be in store for New York's water and health.



ABOUT Steve Horn

 

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog. He is also a freelance investigative journalist whose work has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, The Progressive Magazine, CounterPunch Magazine, TruthOut and others. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveAHorn.

What is the hurry? Tell me

What is the hurry?
Tell me Governor Frack Cuomo, what is the damn hurry?

Why, oh why, Governor Frack Cuomo do you rush New York State into fracking?

It certainly isn't the desperate need for un-natural gas -- there is a surplus of gas on the market, and no place, now, to store the excess which has been produced the past couple of years.

Sooooooooooo, Governor Frack Cuomo, tell me what is YOUR hurry to frack(screw) us citizens of New York State?

What is the hurry? What is the damn hurry?? Tell me Gov. Frack, what's the
hurry????????????????????????? Could it be that you have bigger political aspirations and want the ten or hundred times the cash for your future campaigns, more than the (more than) $150,000, that has already be supplied to you?? What, oh what, Governor($$$$$$$$$$) Frack is your hurry??$$$

Sincerely, One of Many

What is the hurry? Tell me

What is the hurry?
Tell me Governor Frack Cuomo, what is the damn hurry?

Why, oh why, Governor Frack Cuomo do you rush New York State into fracking?

It certainly isn't the desperate need for un-natural gas -- there is a surplus of gas on the market, and no place, now, to store the excess which has been produced the past couple of years.

Sooooooooooo, Governor Frack Cuomo, tell me what is YOUR hurry to frack(screw) us citizens of New York State?

What is the hurry? What is the damn hurry?? Tell me Gov. Frack, what's the
hurry????????????????????????? Could it be that you have bigger political aspirations and want the ten or hundred times the cash for your future campaigns, more than the (more than) $150,000, that has already be supplied to you?? What, oh what, Governor($$$$$$$$$$) Frack is your hurry??$$$

Sincerely, One of Many

All one has to do is look at

All one has to do is look at the NRDC and it's direct connections to Goldman Sachs to find this story believable.

This resource allows control,

This resource allows control, whereas alternative energies/ home development are more autonomous. The earth is raped for control of resource, and not what is best for all, as what is best for all cannot be controlled, and the hierarchy would crumble. The human, has been indoctrinated to believe that life will no longer exist without a centralized eye on the horizon.
But this is one against many, all it takes is for the many to stand and vote - not protest- for a system of equality, check out equalmoney.org and participate and support. It is the only way to stop the ones exposed to, and the ones raping - as both are living a poor existence of no real life expression.

Yum. Toxic acid frack soup

Yum. Toxic acid frack soup -- now with more radioactivity, carcinogens, teratogens, and mutagens.

People living in desolate, gut-wrenching, destitute poverty would be less likely to fight frackers because they are less financially able to do so. Good strategy.
Jobs will also be created by frackers, but the locals won't be getting them for the most part.

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